ArticlePDF Available
Causes, effects, and practicalities of
everyday multitasking
L. Mark Carrier a,*,Larry D. Rosen a, Nancy A. Cheever b,
Alex F. Lim a
aDepartment of Psychology, California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson, CA
90747, USA
bDepartment of Communications, California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson, CA
90747, USA
Article history:
Received 8 December 2014
Available online
Everyday multitasking
Everyday multitasking with electronic devices is common among all
age groups, but the youngest generationsof persons carry out the most
everyday multitasking, especially in the form of media multitasking.
Multitasking via technology in school settings or at home while study-
ing is common for students. Both external factors (e.g., alerts from
smartphones) and internal factors (e.g., thoughts about future online
activities) influence multitasking prevalence. Although laboratory re-
search has shown that performing concurrent tasks is subject to
processing bottlenecks and to switch costs, real-life everyday multi-
tasking is different from laboratory dual-task scenarios in several ways,
including having more than two tasks involved, proceeding by inter-
leaving tasks over extended periods of time, and allowing moreflexibility
in resource allocation and setting of priorities. Theoretically, everyday
multitasking should be capable of achieving some processing efficien-
cies. Yet, empirical research shows that studying, doing homework,
learning during lectures, learning from other sources, grades, and GPA
likely are all negativelyaffected by concurrent multitasking with tech-
nology. Young people who frequently multitask compared with other
young people may be poorer at ignoring irrelevant environmental in-
formation, but the effects of extreme multitasking on other cognitive
outcomes are not clear-cut. There are strategies that people of all ages
can use to minimize multitasking and reduce distractions when they
are performing important tasks such as studying or doing homework.
© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
* Corresponding author. Department of Psychology, California State University Dominguez Hills, 1000 E. Victoria St., Carson,
CA 90747, USA. Fax: +1 310 516 3642.
E-mail address: (L.M. Carrier).
0273-2297/© 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
Please cite this article in press as: L. Mark Carrier, Larry D. Rosen, Nancy A. Cheever, Alex F. Lim, Causes, effects, and
practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
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Causes, effects, and practicalities of everyday multitasking
It’s an hour before dinnertime at home, and a 6th-grader has an hour of math and language home-
work to do for school. The problem: He also wants to finish an “important” online game with his
friends that they all started the night before. Can he do them both at the same time? Accurately?
By the calculations of Rideout, Foehr, and Roberts (2010), American 8- to 18-year-olds – dubbed
Generation M for multitasking – are able to squeeze 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content
into 7 and 1/2 hours of media use. The situation at home for youths has been described as media “sat-
uration” through technology (Roberts, Foehr, & Rideout, 2005). In 2005, a nationally representative
random-digit telephone dialing survey conducted in the United States found that one fifth of 0- to
2-year-olds and more than one third of 3- to 6-year-olds had televisions in their bedrooms. Other studies
have shown that a significant number of children watched television, watched DVDs or videos, or used
a computer on a daily basis (Vandewater et al., 2007). Among American teens, 78% own a cell phone
and one in four go online mostly using the phone rather than a desktop or laptop computer (Madden,
Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi, & Gasser, 2013).
More recently, 8- to 18-year-old youths have been preoccupied with consuming modern media
sources and, as a result, carry out extensive “media multitasking,” according to the Kaiser Family Foun-
dation which has collected extensive data on the prevalence of everyday multitasking in American
youths (Rideout et al., 2010). However, children, teens and young adults all appear to do some kind
of everyday multitasking. With respect to media consumption, there are so many sources of content
available in a typical home that there exists a “media multitasking environment” for almost anyone
(Brasel & Gips, 2011). Brasel and Gips asked younger and older adults to use a computer and to watch
television at the same time, a multitasking situation that the authors dubbed “commonplace” in homes.
Rather than focusing on one media source at a time, people switched between the media at an extreme
rate of more than four switches per minute. The observation that modern technology users seem to
have developed a need to switch between multiple sources of information has led some writers to
suggest that some of us might be suffering from an AD/HD-like “iDisorder” (Rosen, Cheever, & Carrier,
It has been found that younger individuals are more likely than older individuals to do everyday
multitasking. For instance, Carrier, Cheever, Rosen, Benitez, and Chang (2009) asked more than 1300
individuals from Southern California to fill out an everyday multitasking measure that asked about
what technology-related tasks are combined for multitasking in a typical day at home. When they
compared the extent of multitasking across age groups, the results were striking. On some typical task
combinations seen across the generations, as seen in Table 1, there was only one task combination
performed by 75% or more of the older adults (the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and
1964). There were four such task combinations done by persons from Generation X (born between
1965 and 1979). And, six out of seven of the task combinations were performed by 75% or more of
the young adults (the Net Generation, born in 1980 and later). Another item in the questionnaire asked
individuals to estimate how many tasks they combine at one time when they multitask at home. The
Table 1
Proportions of each generation who combine selected tasks at home.
Baby boomer
(born 1946–1964)
Generation X
(born 1965–1979)
Net generation
(born 1980 and later)
Surf web and compute offline .62 .75 .81
Email and text .39 .63 .81
IM and music .72 .69 .93
Telephone and TV .77 .86 .85
Gaming and music .60 .77 .79
Gaming and text .43 .36 .57
Text and music .69 .85 .92
Note. Data from Carrier et al. (2009), not included in original report. Baby Boomer generation: n=312; Generation X: n=182;
Net Generation: n=825. Proportions include only those participants who reported performing the individual tasks on a typical
Please cite this article in press as: L. Mark Carrier, Larry D. Rosen, Nancy A. Cheever, Alex F. Lim, Causes, effects, and
practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
2L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
Baby Boomers indicated that they multitasked a mean of 4.70 tasks, followed by the members of Gen-
eration X (M=5.41) and the members of the Net Generation (M=5.90). The rise in the number of tasks
performed together from the oldest to the youngest generation was statistically significant.
Why people do everyday multitasking
Everyday multitasking occurs everywhere and anywhere, just like the computer-based technolo-
gy with which it is associated. For students of all ages, technology is enmeshed in their school and
home environments. Online worlds are as important a part of their lives as are physical locations (Rosen,
2007). A recent study by Rosen, Carrier, and Cheever (2013) showed how easily middle school, high
school, and college students can be distracted while studying at home if they have technology present.
Thirty-one middle school students, 124 high school students, and 108 college students were ob-
served (all in Southern California) at home in their natural study environments while they studied
for school. Minute-by-minute observations over a 15-minute period revealed that students had a dif-
ficult time focusing on their main task, averaging less than 6 minutes staying on task before switching
to another task. Put another way, students stayed on task 65% of the time, for an estimated total of
10 minutes out of the 15-minute study period. Aside from getting up and walking around, switching
to another task was most often associated with technological distractions, such as texting, Facebook
use and watching TV. For all age groups, the amount of distracting technology available at the begin-
ning of the study session predicted diminished on-task performance, and having the television on at
least once during the study session significantly impacted study time.
For college students in particular, research shows that everyday multitasking occurs in class, while
studying, and while doing homework. Jacobsen and Forste (2011) asked American college students
to complete online questionnaires that included time-use diaries of media use and other distracting
tasks during learning times. They found that about two-thirds of the students reported using elec-
tronic media while in class, studying or doing homework. Ninety-one percent of American college
students in a study by Tindell and Bohlander (2012) had sent or received a text message in their uni-
versity class and 62% felt texting is acceptable in class if it does not disturb other students. Hammer
et al. (2010) asked instructors and students from a technical college in Israel to complete question-
naires that asked about practices and beliefs regarding cell phone and laptop computer use during
lectures. The results showed that students frequently use the devices for non-academic reasons. Junco
and Cotten (2011) administered an online questionnaire to college students from four American uni-
versities that asked them to self-report their instant messaging (IM) use, their multitasking behaviors
(while studying, while doing non-studying computer-based tasks, and while doing non-computer tasks),
as well as other information. The authors found high rates of multitasking while IMing.
Perhaps the most obvious reason why students might be compelled to do so much everyday mul-
titasking is because they think it helps them. Junco and Cotten (2011) found that there was a subset
of students who engaged in intense multitasking despite the potential for negative effects. The belief
that multitasking is beneficial could propel these students to continue multitasking and, Junco and
Cotten surmised, could lead to a multitasking “habit” that cuts across domains. Or, college students
might moderate their multitasking depending upon the situation. Judd and Kennedy (2011) in-
stalled tracking software on computers in a computer laboratory at a university in Australia to identify
instances of students multitasking. The logs showed that multitasking was common but levels were
not high and not consistent. Judd and Kennedy suggested that the reasons for computing could in-
fluence whether students multitask, i.e., students with a specific goal and sufficient motivation would
be less likely to multitask than students with diffuse goals (such as catching up with friends). The authors
also mention time constraints as influencing the decision to multitask: with limited time, there might
be pressure to try to do more than one task at a time (Foehr, 2006; Levine, Waite, & Bowman, 2007;
Mulder, de Poot, Verwij, Janssen, & Bijlsma, 2006). In another analysis of multitasking in Australian
college students while carrying out self-directed studying, Judd (2013) found that multitasking – trying
to perform tasks simultaneously – was common compared with focused study or to task switching.
According to Hammer et al. (2010), a “mobile culture” has invaded the college classroom, with stu-
dents finding it legitimate to use laptops and cell phones for non-academic reasons in the classroom,
and some behaving as if it is their right to be multitaskers during lectures. Among college students,
Please cite this article in press as: L. Mark Carrier, Larry D. Rosen, Nancy A. Cheever, Alex F. Lim, Causes, effects, and
practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
3L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
Internet addiction also could play a role in everyday multitasking, causing some students to multitask
more than the typical student. After all, excessive use of the Internet (and, hence, devices that access
the Internet) is a typical feature of descriptions of Internet addiction (Block, 2008). Clayson and Haley
(2012) administered questionnaires to students in college marketing classes in the U.S. The results
showed that almost all of the students received text messages while in class and 86% of the students
said that they had texted from within the classroom. Despite the fact that more than one-half of the
students were taking a class in which texting was banned, 49% of the students said that they texted
in class anyway. The most frequent reasons for texting in class were a desire to communicate, fol-
lowed by concern about someone and boredom with the class.
American college students reported that they multitask when they are using computers and IMing
because of time pressures, because of boredom while waiting for someone to respond to a commu-
nication, and, well, because they can (Baron, 2008). The latter reason becomes especially significant
as it relates to the “affordances” provided by technological devices (Gibson, 1979; Norman, 1988). Con-
temporary computer-based gadgets let us, and in fact, encourage us to multitask. Operating systems
on our laptop computers, the tabs system in Web browsers, and large screens on computer monitors
afford multitasking. They let us run multiple programs or applications and keep several windows open
simultaneously, sometimes related, sometimes not. In fact, one report of the Kaiser Family Founda-
tion, after scrutinizing the self-reported devices with which American youth multitasked, dubbed the
general-purpose computer (e.g., a laptop in the home) as the multitasking center of a youth’s life (Foehr,
2006). Smartphones have icons that represent ways to connect with others and ways to gather infor-
mation right on the main screen. Baron noted that college students use this to their advantage when
socializing. They use the technology to “adjust the volume” of their communication stream. For in-
stance, a student might use IM synchronously or asynchronously to control her level of interaction
with another person. Being on the computer allows one to avoid the awkwardness that happens when
one multitasks during a face-to-face communication.
Laboratory versus real-world multitasking
Multitasking is one of those terms that can be difficult to define. The traditional cognitive psy-
chology laboratory study of “multitasking” would require that a participant perform two tasks
simultaneously. Each task would have a clearly defined goal that is distinct from the other task. In
many cases, the tasks would be simplified versions of basic cognitive tasks – so simple that it is rare
that people make mistakes. Consider this task:
If you hear a high-pitched tone, then press the key labeled “Hi.” If you hear a low-pitched tone,
then press the key labeled “Lo.” Do this as fast as you can.
This task, a choice-reaction time task, can be performed in significantly less than a second. Sur-
prisingly, simple tasks like these are liable to produce a kind of interference when performed
simultaneously. A basic form of interference is indexed by the phenomenon known as the Psycho-
logical Refractory Period. This occurs when two choice-reaction time tasks are performed at the same
time, even when the tasks are quite different in input and output modalities. The reaction time to one
of the tasks is delayed because of the presence of the other task (Pashler, 1993, 1994; Pashler & Johnston,
1998; Pashler, Johnston, & Ruthruff, 2001; Welford, 1967).
Alternatively, a second form of what might be called “multitasking” can be studied in the labora-
tory by asking people to perform two very simple tasks back-to-back, repeatedly. One of the key findings
of research into this form of multitasking – called task switching – is that it is more difficult to switch
to a new task than it is to repeat the same task. The difficulty is observed as a “switch cost,” a delay
in executing the new task compared with repeating the same task. Although small – on the order of
hundreds of milliseconds – the cost is considered to be theoretically relevant to foundational theo-
ries of human cognition (Allport, Styles, & Hsieh, 1994; Rogers & Monsell, 1995). In the experimental
literature, there also are cases where two tasks can be performed simultaneously without interfer-
ence. There are two ways to think about this outcome. One is the possibility of “automaticity.” With
repeated performance, the mental processes required by a task might change such that they no longer
rely on any cognitive functions that are used in another task and this would allow the automatic task
Please cite this article in press as: L. Mark Carrier, Larry D. Rosen, Nancy A. Cheever, Alex F. Lim, Causes, effects, and
practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
4L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
to be paired with other tasks efficiently (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010). Another possibility is that the
two tasks do not use the same underlying mental processes or cognitive resources (Salvucci & Taatgen,
Real-life multitasking, i.e., everyday multitasking, might not resemble these laboratory forms of
multitasking at all. Everyday multitasking, for instance in the workplace or the classroom, most likely
contains elements of simultaneous cognitive processing (as studied in dual-task experiments), ele-
ments of task switching and elements of automaticity; however, in real life, multitasking might take
a variety of forms, only sometimes resembling the classical dual-task experiment or the task-
switching experiment. Task switching in real-life is more complex than in the laboratory, since people
also seem to “interleave” two or more tasks by switching back and forth between the tasks prior to
finishing any one task (Duggan, Johnson, & Sørli, 2013). There are often more than two tasks. In the
study by Carrier et al. (2009), even the Baby Boomers were combining more than four tasks at home
when doing everyday multitasking. In addition, everyday multitasking tasks usually are more com-
plicated than laboratory tasks. For example, during weekly meetings in our laboratory, it has been
observed that the student research assistants are simultaneously monitoring their cell phones, Face-
booking, and surfing the Web, all while – presumably—listening to the featured speaker. Anecdotally,
and not surprising to anyone who has observed everyday behavior, similar behavior is seen in res-
taurants, classrooms, boardrooms, stores and anywhere a smartphone can be used.
Additionally, there is considerably more flexibility in how a person chooses to allocate her re-
sources during tasks, decides to allocate priority to tasks, and opts to begin, continue, and end tasks.
In a study by Adler and Benbunan-Fich (2013), participants were given five real-life tasks to perform
(the main task was a Sudoku puzzle), all arranged in a browser-like environment with each task on a
separate tab. The participants were not given instructions as to how to organize their work; they were
told only to complete the tasks. The researchers recorded when participants would switch to another
tab to start work on another task. After asking the participants later why they switched tabs, it was
discovered that participants who experienced negative feelings about the tasks (e.g., getting stuck on
a task) were more likely to switch tasks during the study than participants who experienced positive
feelings (e.g., curiosity). Based on their negative feelings, it appeared that some participants “self-
interrupted” by starting or a switching to another task. Adler and Benbunan-Fich argued that peoples’
decisions to switch from one task to another (and perhaps to even multitask at all) can be based on
self-interruptions that are grounded in feelings related to progress on a task and the self-assessed pros-
pect of goal attainment. Imagine a student in lecture who is beginning to fall further and further behind
in understanding what the instructor is saying. Upon realizing this, the student’s next thought, ac-
cording to the research, is likely to be, I wonder if anyone responded to my Facebook post. Let me check!
Of course, external interruptions exist as well and can direct our processing resources to engage in a
new task (and therefore multitask) in addition to our current task. Media content from computer-
based devices provides stimuli that grab our attention, such as the beep or vibration when a text message
arrives (Armstrong, 2003). Technology itself has become more insistent from a sensory point of view,
with beeps, reminders, follow-ups, alerts, etc. all customized to a specific person.
The effects of everyday multitasking upon learning
While there are clear limits on laboratory multitasking, it is theoretically possible that some forms
and cases of everyday multitasking might actually improve one’s efficiency. A recent theory of cog-
nitive multitasking makes this explicit. Salvucci and Taatgen (2008) proposed an integrated theory
of concurrent multitasking, Threaded Cognition, that proposes a serial procedural resource (i.e., per-
formance limiting) that takes in and initiates requests to various processing resources (e.g., perceptual
motor resources). There are no specialized executive processes and the theory allows for concurrent
execution of tasks except when the serial procedural resource is required or when resources are oc-
cupied. The authors liken the serial process to the cook in a kitchen who can let some processes run
independently (e.g., baking bread), but is required to be around when one process ends (e.g., prepare
dough) and another needs to be initiated (e.g., put dough into the oven). Any theory of multitasking
that allows processes to run independently of each other under some circumstances also naturally
allows for the existence of “lag time.” Lag time is time during the execution of a task when the limited
Please cite this article in press as: L. Mark Carrier, Larry D. Rosen, Nancy A. Cheever, Alex F. Lim, Causes, effects, and
practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
5L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
resource (i.e., the cook) has nothing to do for that task so can be allocated to another task to get work
done. The lag time present in real-life tasks might allow people in everyday settings to arrange their
cognitive processing effectively across tasks (Kinzie, Whitaker, & Hofer, 2005). Another part of the theory
is that with practice, execution of tasks depends less and less on declarative resources (knowledge)
and more and more on procedural processes (i.e., production rules), leading to reduced interference
between tasks. However, this change with practice is a slow process. So, the Generation M children
who were found by Rideout et al. (2010) to squeeze almost 11 hours of media content into 7.5 hours
of media use might actually be able to do it without loss of performance! Of course, this type of per-
formance probably would require extremely judicious allocation of mental resources, planning, and
arranging of physical and cognitive processes in order to maximize time savings by running some of
the necessary processes in parallel, independently and in the background. Maybe these children have
figured out how to do it, but more likely than not, if measured, their knowledge of the media content
would not be as good as it would be if they had consumed the content from the media one at a time.
Further, as will be discussed below, it seems unlikely that one could be successful at achieving such
processing efficiencies when some of the tasks involved are active learning tasks.
When Carrier et al. (2009) examined the specific tasks that adults of all ages choose to combine
during everyday multitasking, they found a high degree of agreement across generations (Baby Boomer
vs. Generation X vs. Net Generation) as well as a high degree of agreement on which tasks are rela-
tively easy or relatively difficult to combine when at home. Again, this is consistent with the idea of
preexisting mental limitations that affect multitasking that do not change with age in adulthood or
with extensive practice (Net Generation vs. other generations). Of course, these limitations are de-
scribed by the theory of Threaded Cognition and embodied in the elements of theory described earlier:
the serial procedural resource (e.g., the cook in the kitchen) and the various other mental resources
that to some degree can be used in parallel with one another.
The theory of Threaded Cognition suggests that some multitasking will be successful (i.e., time saved
without loss of accuracy) but in many cases it will not. A number of studies involving students dem-
onstrate how the learning process is affected by everyday multitasking. An obvious precondition to
learning is that one must become oriented toward the learning task. But, it is very easy for students
to be distracted by their technological devices while studying. As the observational study of Rosen
et al. (2013) showed, the greater the number of distracting technologies that a student has available
in their study environment at the outset of studying, the less likely they are to stay on task while study-
ing. While Rosen et al. did not measure the impact of this distraction on memory for the studied material,
it is natural to assume that the time spent on the distracting event (e.g., watching TV) resulted in less
learning of the target material. After orienting to the learning task, the active process of learning ma-
terial must proceed. Apparently, this task cannot proceed unhindered when other technology-based
tasks are occurring.
Doing schoolwork or homework also is affected by everyday multitasking. Correlational self-
report data have shown this pattern. Junco and Cotten (2011) investigated how multitasking with IM
affected students’ academic performance. More specifically, they asked students to self-assess what
impact IMing has on their homework (not specifically defined) and to report how much they multitask
while IMing. The results showed that multitasking while IMing was predictive of IMing having a greater
negative impact upon homework. Further, despite the majority of the sample believing that IMing was
detrimental to schoolwork, they tended to multitask while IMing a great deal. The study by Adler and
Benbunan-Fich (2013) mentioned earlier showed that a problem-solving task (in this case, a Sudoku
puzzle) is interfered with by concurrent technology-based multitasking. In the case of solving this par-
ticular type of problem, accuracy in the task worsened as more switches were made to other computer-
based tasks during the experimental time period. A brain imaging study conducted by Foerde, Knowlton,
and Poldrack (2006) showed that performance on a task involving practicing and learning categori-
cal information (a weather prediction task) was not affected by the simultaneous performance of a
tone-counting task; however, the imaging results showed that the neural basis of the learned infor-
mation changed from the hippocampus (the area devoted to declarative memory) to the striatum during
distraction. Although not specifically done in the context of everyday multitasking, these findings suggest
that homework or schoolwork performed in multitasking conditions might produce different types
of learning than work performed alone. And finally, Rosen et al. (2013) found that preference for task
Please cite this article in press as: L. Mark Carrier, Larry D. Rosen, Nancy A. Cheever, Alex F. Lim, Causes, effects, and
practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
6L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
switching during home study was one predictor of lower GPA among middle school, high school and
college students.
Students frequently do everyday multitasking with technology during school and college lec-
tures. Negative self-interruptions, as described earlier, are likely to be rampant. In a typical lecture,
there probably are many times when the presentation becomes difficult to understand or when the
material becomes uninteresting. The temptation to switch to another task with high emotional appeal
(e.g., checking Facebook) is great. Further, if the student has left her cell phone on, even in “vibrate
only” mode, there are going to be several external interruptions during the class period. In a texting
study conducted by Rosen, Lim, Carrier, and Cheever (2011), the researchers attempted to send text
messages to students on their own cell phones during a 30-minute college lecture. However, there
were so many naturally occurring text messages sent and received by the participants during the class
period – an average of nearly one and half texts in the 30 minutes – that these natural messages had
to be accounted for in the analyses.
Qualitative data suggest that communication with other students during lecture via technology may
be problematic for learning. Kinzie et al. (2005) distributed handheld computers to students to use
as synchronous chat devices during lectures in a college course. Interviewing the students and in-
structors at a later point, the researchers found that the participants had trouble dividing their attention
across the learning and chatting tasks. Experimental work supports this conclusion. Sending a text
message during lecture does appear to interfere with learning. Ellis, Daniels, and Jauregui (2010) ran-
domly assigned U.S. undergraduates to a lecture-only condition or a text-plus-lecture condition. In
the lecture-only condition, students listened to a lecture about accounting principles and then took
a quiz on the lecture material. The students in the text-plus-lecture condition also were required to
send three texts to the instructor during the lecture, the timing of which was left to the students. The
results showed a 27% reduction in memory for the lecture material when students had to text while
learning. Sending and receiving text messages interfered with learning from a lecture in the study
mentioned earlier by Rosen et al. (2011). One hundred and eighty five American undergraduates were
randomly assigned to one of three groups that varied in how many text messages they were sent –
and were asked to respond to – during a 30-minute videotaped lecture on life-span development. Stu-
dents who were required to do a moderate amount of texting (8 to 15 texts sent and received) performed
a little worse than low texters (0–7 texts) on a subsequent memory test (70% versus 72% correct) but
the difference was not statistically significant. It was not until the amount of texting reached 16 or
more texts that performance on the test was significantly worse than in the low texting group (65%
versus 72% correct) reflecting the difference between a “C” and a “D” grade on the test. Finally, Kuznekoff
and Titsworth (2013) found that American college students randomly assigned to do a lot of texting
on their cellphones during a lecture (responding to 24 text messages in 12 minutes) remembered sig-
nificantly less material from the lecture than students who did not text. However, students randomly
assigned to do a light amount of texting (12 messages in 12 minutes) did not perform significantly
worse when remembering the material.
In the classroom lecture situation, the finding that texting interferes with learning is not consis-
tent. However, there is evidence that other forms of communication, including social networking and
IM, do impact memory for a lecture. Wood et al. (2012) examined the impact of technology use in
the college classroom during lectures. Participants in their study – Canadian college students – were
randomly assigned to one of several technology use or control conditions. For example, in one tech-
nology use condition, participants were required to use Facebook during three lectures. In other
conditions, students were required to IM on a laptop computer, email on a laptop, or text on a mobile
phone. The key control condition was a paper-and-pencil note-taking condition. The results showed
that, compared with the key control condition, students in the Facebook and IM conditions per-
formed significantly worse on memory tests for lecture material; however, texting and e-mailing did
not result in worse performance. The authors speculated that texting did not interfere because it was
not as distracting due to participants placing their phones away from themselves on the desktops,
while e-mailing was not distracting because it did not automatically alert persons to incoming mes-
sages. Nonetheless, a post-hoc analysis combining all of the technology usage conditions together showed
that students who used technology during lecture had lower memory scores than those who did not.
Using a laptop computer during lecture, while allowing students the ability to take electronic
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practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
7L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
versions of notes and to access course-relevant information during the class period, leads to multi-
tasking and interferes with memory for the lecture. Unfortunately, the negative effect of laptop use
spreads to nearby students, as well (Hembrooke & Gay, 2003; Sana, Weston, & Cepeda, 2013).
With unlimited study time, learning from a text might not be affected by a technological distrac-
tion (hence, multitasking). Bowman, Levine, Waite, and Gendron (2010) asked some American college
students to comprehend a reading passage and others to perform reading comprehension while si-
multaneously responding to IM requests or right after IMing. Although reading times were slowed
by the IM interruptions compared with the other two conditions, comprehension levels were not af-
fected. The students in the simultaneous task condition apparently were able to switch away from
reading comprehension to perform the IM task and then return again without ill effects on compre-
hension. When Bowman et al. analyzed the times taken to perform the individual and the combined
tasks in detail, they found that the extra time spent reading in the simultaneous task condition was
greater than the time required to do IMing alone. The authors surmised that this extra time could be
due to an extra cost involved in switching between tasks, i.e., a switch cost. Part of that cost might
have been due to a “resumption lag” with the participants having to go back and re-read sections of
the text after IMing.
Learning is affected by performing a simultaneous learning task, even when the modes of presen-
tation in the two tasks are different. When American undergraduate students were asked to
simultaneously learn from a podcast and learn by reading an online article, memory for the informa-
tion from the two sources declined compared with learning either source individually (Srivastava, 2013).
Importantly, the authors administered several memory measures that varied in sensitivity, including
a free recall measure (relatively less sensitive) and a recognition measure (relatively more sensitive).
All memory measures were affected, suggesting a fairly catastrophic breakdown of learning with this
type of media multitasking. The battering of the learning process by simultaneous media multitask-
ing with another learning task was consistent with the results of a study done by Lee, Lin, and Robertson
(2011). The setup in their study is reminiscent of what probably thousands of North American middle
school, high school, and college students do every day. The participants, college students in the U.S.,
were asked either to read and learn some school-level information from print materials or to read
for comprehension at the same time as learning from a videotape that contained information that also
would be tested. Replace the videotape with YouTube videos and there is clear realism to this sce-
nario. The analyses of the data showed significantly better reading comprehension in the read-only
condition than in the multitasking condition.
Srivastava (2013) interpreted the results of the podcast/online article study using the limited ca-
pacity model of mediated message processing (LC4MP; Lang, 2000, 2006) in which encoding, storage
and retrieval compete with each other for limited resources. Lee et al. (2011) suggested that two learn-
ing tasks compete for working memory and that this competition produces interference (Sweller, van
Merriënboer, & Paas, 1998). But, the results can also be understood from the perspective of the theory
of Threaded Cognition proposed by Salvucci and Taatgen (2008). Reading comprehension, at a minimum,
involves parsing sentences, not to mention processes that allow a person to integrate new informa-
tion with old information in memory. Parsing sentences places great demands upon declarative
knowledge, access to which occurs serially in the theory’s conception. Therefore, just parsing two sen-
tences simultaneously (e.g., from the podcast and the article) should be an extremely difficult task in
a fixed period of time, let alone considering the organizational and memorial processes necessary for
Practically speaking, it is irrelevant whether studying or learning is affected in the moment by ev-
eryday multitasking. What really matters to the typical student is the course grade. Earlier, several
studies were described that demonstrated a widespread phenomenon of students using cell phones
in the college classroom. Clayson and Haley (2012), reviewing the grades of students in a set of mar-
keting classes in the U.S., found evidence that the academic “bottom line” for the student is affected
by in-class multitasking. After gathering the points earned in the classes from the instructors, and com-
paring these to the students’ self-reports of the number of texts received in class, the researchers learned
that grades were negatively impacted by receiving texts and, further, that this relationship held for
all levels of GPA. Burak (2012) administered a questionnaire to 774 American college students
assessing their multitasking and their grades. The analysis of the questionnaire data revealed that
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practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
8L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
self-reported classroom multitasking was significantly associated with lower GPAs. Further, a regres-
sion analysis showed that the most important contributor to lower GPAs was texting (Burak, personal
communication 2014). On the other hand, in their observational study of middle school, high school,
and college students during a study session, Rosen et al. (2013) found limited connection between
staying on task and overall GPA. All but one of the technologies observed to be used off-task during
the study session failed to predict GPA. The one technology that did predict GPA was Facebook: ac-
cessing Facebook at least once during the study session significantly predicted a lower GPA. The logical
connection between accessing Facebook during study and overall GPA is unclear and could take many
forms. It was also found that Facebook use was the only immediate technology activity that signifi-
cantly reduced on-task behavior (studying), hinting that GPA might be affected because Facebook use
reduces academic study time.
Yet, other technology-based distractions did not appear to impact GPA, which suggests that there
is something different about social media interactions and their mental distractions. One potential basis
for the attractiveness of social media to a young person’s focus of attention is the Fear Of Missing Out
(FOMO), a phrase coined by MTV with respect to why youths and young adults keep checking their
devices all of the time. The television station polled a large number of young people and found that
the majority felt that “when I’m unplugged, I worry that I’m missing out on something” (Taylor, April
29, 2011). Rosen, Whaling, Rab, Carrier, and Cheever (2013), interested in studying links between tech-
nology use and psychiatric symptoms, measured people’s anxiety about not being able to check their
devices via a self-report measure. The authors found that younger generations report more anxiety
than older generations, and that the majority in the younger generations check in very often (every
hour, every 15 min or all the time) with their text messages, social networks, and cell phone calls.
The researchers suggested that there is a causal link between anxiety about not checking in and the
frequency of checking in. Indeed, Przybylski, Murayama, DeHaan, and Gladwell (2013), developed a
measure of FOMO and found that young adults showed the highest levels of it and that FOMO was
linked to seeking out social media.
The long-term effects of everyday multitasking
Beyond the immediate academic impact of everyday multitasking, the extent of multitasking in
the population, especially among young persons, makes one wonder about the long-term effects of
attempting to do too much at the same time. Until very recently, this question had not been pursued
by traditional research into multitasking (i.e., cognitive psychology research). While it is clear that people
are multitasking more than ever in their everyday lives, what is not clear is whether people have been
getting better or worse at it. A number of social critics and researchers have suggested a range of po-
tential positive and negative effects of extensive everyday multitasking with devices (e.g., Small & Vorgan,
2009) but there is not much solid empirical evidence available to evaluate the claims. Some people
have raised the possibility that youth who multitask a lot could get better than the average person at
multitasking or other attentional skills (e.g., Foehr, 2006). One might wonder whether all of the mul-
titasking “practice” that people are getting has made them effective multitaskers or even “supertaskers”
(Watson & Strayer, 2010). Other people (e.g., Carr, 2011) have argued that the kind of rapid attention
shifting that is involved in multitasking with devices could lead to an inability to focus and a perpet-
ually shallow level of processing of information. In the proposed concept of Continuous Partial Attention
by Stone (2007), technology-induced multitasking for extended periods of time leads to reduced depth
of processing, increased stress and anxiety, and a reduction in creative and problem-solving performance.
College-aged students, being the most studied age bracket when it comes to multitasking, have
provided most of the data over several decades upon which theories of multitasking and attention
have been formed. Coincidentally, contemporary college students also represent some of the most avid
multitaskers when it comes to use of technological devices. It would be not unexpected to see that
current research into dual-task performance and other forms of multitasking find that college stu-
dents are able to combine two or more cognitive tasks efficiently. But, this is not the case. Laboratory
research into concurrent task performance shows that although with certain tasks people can dimin-
ish the time costs associated with multitasking (Dux et al., 2009), data continue to show the existence
of stubborn mental limitations when people (i.e., college students) try to multitask. So, based on basic
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practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
9L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
laboratory research, all of this everyday practice does not seem to be resulting in major improve-
ments in general multitasking skills for college-aged persons compared with earlier generations of
Several researchers have carried out correlational studies, looking for differences in multitasking
skills between people who multitask a lot in everyday life and those who do not multitask much. Keep
in mind that the correlational nature of these studies means that it is not possible to know if every-
day multitasking causes cognitive changes or if cognitive differences lead to extensive everyday
multitasking. There have been studies comparing persons with different multitasking habits on
laboratory-based multitasking performance. Ophir, Nass, and Wagner (2009) administered a media
use questionnaire to 262 American university students in which students estimated their weekly use
of 12 different media forms, plus estimated the simultaneous use of each form with the other forms.
The estimates were used to create a media multitasking index (MMI) for each student. A High Media
Multitaskers group (HMMs) and a Low Media Multitaskers (LMM) group were created based on the
MMIs. Ophir et al. (2009) gave participants a task-switching measure to assess this form of multi-
tasking skill. Participants performed either a letter classification task (vowel or consonant) or a number
classification task (even or odd). The tasks occurred successively or alternately.
Their results revealed that HMMs had significantly higher switch costs than the LMMs. Ophir et al.
attributed the switch cost disadvantage to the inability of the HMMs to filter out irrelevant task in-
formation in memory (described below). In contrast, a follow-up study by Minear, Brasher, McCurdy,
Lewis, and Younggren (2013), using an almost identical procedure with 221 American college stu-
dents (aged 18–25 years old), failed to find a task-switching deficit for HMMs compared with LMMs.
While overall the two groups experienced a significant “switch cost,” they did not differ statistically
in the size of the cost. A recent study by Alzahabi and Becker (2013) has taken the research by Ophir
et al. one step further. The researchers compared low and high media multitaskers on measures of
task switching and dual-task performance (trying to do two things at exactly the same time). Partici-
pants were asked to respond as quickly as possible to either a number (by classifying it as even or
odd) or a letter (by classifying it as a consonant or a vowel). In the dual-task situation, participants
were asked to complete both classifications at the same time; in the task-switching situation, par-
ticipants performed the same classification repeatedly with occasionally switches between the types
of classification. The study results showed that there was an advantage for high media multitaskers
in task switching but not in dual-task performance. So, the evidence for improved task switching is
very inconsistent, and there was not laboratory evidence for improved dual-task performance.
Some of this research also has examined everyday multitasking and its effects on the ability to ignore
irrelevant information. Ophir et al. (2009) tested the ability to ignore environmental distractors (i.e.,
selective attention). The authors gave two tests that required filtering out stimuli that were irrele-
vant to the task. Both measures showed that the HMMs were significantly worse than the LMMs. In
an interesting reinterpretation of these results, Lin (2009) proposed that HMMs were dividing their
attention across the focal targets and the distractor material despite being told to focus on only the
key information. Further, Lin argued that this was a potentially important skill to have in the modern
media-heavy age: to be able to perform a primary task while also superficially sampling distracting
information for other useful stimuli.
Ophir et al. (2009) also tested whether HMMs would have a more difficult time than LMMs in ig-
noring extra information in working memory. The tests used were the “2-Back” and “3-Back” tests.
In these measures, participants are given the challenging task of remembering a target letter for a few
seconds while other letters appear on the computer screen. The task is challenging because each other
letter that appears is also a target to be remembered. In the 2-Back test, the participant has to decide
if the current letter is one that appeared two letters ago; in the 3-Back test, the participant has to decide
if the current letter is one that appeared three letters ago. The results showed that HMMs had a more
difficult time in these tasks than the LMMs. In contrast, however, Minear et al. (2013) gave American
college students a different task designed to measure difficulty in dealing with irrelevant informa-
tion in working memory (the Recent Probes Item Recognition Task) and found no performance differences
between HMMs and LMMs.
Minear et al. (2013), in order to further assess attentional skills in multitaskers, gave American college
students a task designed to measure alerting, orienting, and executive attention using the Attention
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practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
10 L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
Network Task from Fan, McCandliss, Sommer, Raz, and Posner (2002). This task results in three mea-
sures – alerting, orienting and executive attention – based on one popular model of the human attention
system (Posner & Boies, 1971; Posner & Petersen, 1990). Alerting is defined as becoming and staying
attentive toward the environment. Orienting is allocating attention to a specific stimulus. Executive
attention is necessary to deploy resources in order to deal with multiple attentional cues. However,
in the data from Minear et al., these tasks showed no performance differences between HMMs and
LMMs. Minear et al. stated at least two possible differences between their study and the study by Ophir
et al. that could explain the conflicting outcomes. One possibility was that the participants in the two
studies employed different attentional strategies in carrying out the tasks. The participants, college
students, came from very different types of colleges. Another possibility was that the two groups of
participants might have varied in how much prior success they had in everyday multitasking.
Other cognitive processes also have been assessed for associations with everyday multitasking. Minear
et al. (2013) compared their HMMs and LMMs on a measure of working memory borrowed from Conway
et al. (2005), finding no significant difference. The authors also compared the two groups on a measure
of fluid intelligence using Raven’s standard Progressive Matrices (RPM; Raven, 1998). Here, there was
a difference between the groups: HMMs performed significantly lower than the LMMs. However, in a
careful analysis of the reaction times to individual items on the RPM, in conjunction with their finding
that HMMs showed higher levels of impulsivity than the LMMs, the authors argued that the differ-
ences in fluid intelligence probably were due to HMMs giving up sooner on RPM items than the LMMs.
Coping with the negative effects of everyday multitasking
There are a few interesting results to consider when addressing the question of how people should
deal with the potentially negative effects of everyday multitasking. One is a finding in the previously
described texting-in-the-classroom study by Rosen et al. (2011). The researchers compared three ran-
domly assigned groups of students (No/Low Texting, Medium Texting, High Texting) on their performance
in a classroom lecture learning task. In that study, despite finding that the High Texting group learned
less from a concurrent lecture than a Low/No Texting group, further analyses showed that the amount
of interference due to texting was related to how quickly a student responded to a text. Although stu-
dents were instructed to respond to the experimenters’ text messages, many chose to delay their
responses, and, further, students also received messages from friends and family to which they could
choose when they wanted to respond, if at all. The analysis showed that participants who waited a
few minutes to respond to a text message did substantially better on the learning task than those who
responded more rapidly. Although this was a post-hoc analysis of the data that merits further exper-
imental investigation, there is very little other empirical evidence available that can tell us how people
should deal with the negative effects of everyday multitasking.
If it is true that the students in the study by Rosen et al. (2011) were strategically delaying their
response to a text message to avoid interference with learning, then this option represents one of several
possible choices that people, especially students, can make when using digital devices in learning situ-
ations. Rosen, Carrier, and Cheever (2010), noting the ubiquity of smartphones and the associated amount
of time that people use them, referred to smartphones and other portable computer devices as Wire-
less Mobile Devices (or WMDs, a play on the phrase Weapons of Mass Destruction). In the classroom,
clearly, optimal learning and focusing on the lecturer should be associated with minimizing the dis-
tractions from WMDs. If the teacher has not already required it, students have the option of completely
turning off their cell phones, or partially doing so by turning off the ringers and/or turning off the vibrate
mode. Putting the cell phone away into a backpack or purse might be even more helpful in reducing
how much stimulation reaches the student during lecture. Based on the idea that technological devices
grab our attention through the sensory stimuli that they provide, then minimizing that stimulation
should reduce our distractions in learning environments. When studying, students increasingly appear
to be using electronic devices to read and absorb material. Pressure from educational institutions to
switch away from paper textbooks and toward electronic texts has contributed to this trend in behavior.
Reading and learning from electronic devices offer their own options for students who want to make
learning-enhancing adjustments to their study sessions. For WMDs and laptops and home desktop
computers, this means turning off the music or turning down the volume of the music. Students also
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practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
11L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
have the options of closing extra windows on the devices – assuming that windows contain applica-
tions that are potentially distracting such as Facebook as found by Rosen et al. (2013) in their observations
of students studying – and de-cluttering their reading experience by using a reader application or program
that eliminates distracting banners, navigation bars or extraneous Internet links (e.g., using the “Reader”
button in the Safari Web browser). Other ways to “turn down the volume,” although this time with
respect to the amount of concurrent communication happening during studying (Baron, 2008), include
turning off social media applications such as Facebook or deactivating phone alerts from them.
The reader surely can think of many more options that are available to people trying to learn from
electronic devices. Some types of students seem to be more at risk for distraction during this type of
learning than other students. Research in education has found that students with low prior knowl-
edge of a topic (perhaps due to disorientation in a busy learning environment), students with experience
in online environments (perhaps due to ease of processing irrelevant information), and students with
computer familiarity (perhaps due to the gradual development of shallow browsing strategies with
computer experience) are less likely than other students to learn when studying online (Kushnir, 2009;
Müller-Kalthoff & Möller, 2006; Wecker, Kohnle, & Fischer, 2007).
As Rosen et al. (2011) pointed out, making strategic decisions about technology usage that benefit learn-
ing is a form of metacognition. Metacognition, which literally means thinking about thinking, could include
self-judgments of learning abilities, knowledge of one’s own learning styles and self-estimated knowl-
edge and skill levels. When asked whether they can name all U.S. presidents to date in chronological order,
most college students immediately “metacognitively” know that they cannot do it. Metacognition applied
to learning also might be applied to learning that involves digital devices. Here are some examples: no-
ticing one’s anxiety caused by separation from digital devices, knowing when to stop texting in class or
during a meeting and knowing when to put away or look away from the laptop during lecture.
This form of “digital metacognition” can be applied to the workplace, too. Selecting a primary task to
perform and focus on might work better if the employee has learned, through instruction or through re-
flection, some strategies to do so. As with the student trying to learn more effectively, these primary tasks
take place on and off of digital devices and there would be a range of options available to workers to maxi-
mize performance and minimize distractions. The theory of Threaded Cognition and the concept of automaticity
also provide knowledge that can be put to good use in the workplace. Some multitasking – the pure form
of multitasking that involves parallel processing of two separate tasks – might be possible under the right
conditions. Noting when two tasks can proceed together and when they cannot gives insight to the worker
as to what choices should be made to maximize performance. In general, well-rehearsed tasks should have
reduced dependence on serial resources and so should be less likely to interfere with a primary task.
Ie, Haller, Langer, and Courvoisier (2012) tried improving media multitasking in a different way.
Coming from the perspective of “mindfulness,” the authors trained participants (adults from age 18
to 50) in an attempt to induce a form of temporary mental flexibility that would encourage “creation
of novel distinctions and flexibility.” The training exercises also reinforced the notion of the “perme-
ability of categories.” An example exercise to raise mindfulness was to provide three positive and three
negative explanations for the person’s actions in the ambiguous scenario, “Jonathan took $5000 from
the teller.” The logic of the training was to improve multitasking performance by enhancing mindful
flexibility. The participants next performed media multitasking in the form of doing a word process-
ing task while simultaneously performing an anagram task through a chat program. The results did
not confirm expectations, as the mindfulness training did not significantly alter multitasking perfor-
mance; however, it was learned that one’s prior level of mindfulness (trait mindfulness) predicted
multitasking performance, with those high in trait mindfulness performing better than those partici-
pants low in trait mindfulness. The authors interpret this finding as suggesting that people who are
implicitly or explicitly aware of multiple perspectives on a scenario are better at media multitasking
than other individuals and raise the possibility that fostering trait mindfulness might be a way to enhance
people’s technology-based multitasking skills.
Summary and conclusions
Everyday multitasking is prevalent in contemporary society, especially among youth who engage ex-
tensively in media multitasking. One of the important venues for understanding everyday multitasking
Please cite this article in press as: L. Mark Carrier, Larry D. Rosen, Nancy A. Cheever, Alex F. Lim, Causes, effects, and
practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
12 L.M. Carrier et al./Developmental Review ■■ (2015) ■■■■
is in the classroom. During periods of life – particularly middle school, high school, and college – when
learning requires long spans of focused attention for studying texts and listening to lectures, ele-
ctronic devices are providing platforms for losing focus via media multitasking. Several possible
contributors to the multitasking associated with devices are a need to get more done in a fixed period
of time, a desire to communicate with others, addiction to the Internet or to the cell phone, a wish to
switch away from a boring task to a more interesting one, and the Fear Of Missing Out (Block, 2008;
Clayson & Haley, 2012; Judd & Kennedy, 2011; Taylor, April 29, 2011). In addition, the devices them-
selves – and the programs and applications that they provide – can draw in our attention via
beeps and vibrations and the built-in capability to open new windows and multiple, simultaneous
Research in the laboratory has investigated the root causes of interference between tasks during
multitasking, uncovering important limitations in human information processing that include a seem-
ingly fixed serial processor involved in even the simplest of tasks and a performance cost that is incurred
when people rapidly switch between tasks (Allport et al., 1994; Pashler, 1993, 1994; Pashler & Johnston,
1998; Pashler et al., 2001; Rogers & Monsell, 1995; Welford, 1967). However, real-life multitasking is
more complex and more flexible than laboratory multitasking in several ways, so it is unclear how
much these basic attentional limits in processing will affect a person in the real world. More elabo-
rate theories of multitasking, such as the theory of Threaded Cognition (Salvucci & Taatgen, 2008),
provide an approximation of what happens when people perform everyday multitasking and might
be used to predict when everyday multitasking will help and when it will interfere with completing
task goals in a timely manner.
Learning, perhaps the most important task in which a middle school, high school, or college student
must engage, can be affected by everyday multitasking in several ways. The act of orienting to the learn-
ing task can be compromised simply by the presence of electronic gadgets as shown in Rosen et al. (2013).
Doing homework can be affected by doing electronic tasks at the same time (Adler & Benbunan-Fich, 2013;
Junco & Cotten, 2011). The use of communication devices brought into the classroom may interfere with
learning lecture material (Ellis et al., 2010; Kinzie et al., 2005; Kuznekoff & Titsworth, 2013; Rosen et al.,
2011). With unlimited study time, distraction by gadgets might not interfere with the knowledge gained
from a learning task, but the time required to learn the material could be greater and constant distrac-
tion can increase stress and anxiety (Bowman et al., 2010). Trying to learn information from two separate
media sources simultaneously appears to be detrimental for learning (Lee et al., 2011; Srivastava,
Using devices in the classroom might affect the academic bottom line – the grade (Burak, 2012;
Clayson & Haley, 2012) – although using devices outside the classroom during study time has a less
clear impact on grades. The long-term effects of everyday multitasking are not readily apparent. Young
people who form the Net Generation – who also happen to be the most avid multitaskers – do not
appear to be getting any better at multitasking than prior generations and seem to be bound by
the same mental limitations as other individuals. However, a few potential differences between heavy
media multitaskers (HMMs) and light media multitaskers (LMMs) have emerged. HMMs appear to
be less able than LMMs to avoid the influence of irrelevant environmental distractors (Ophir et al.,
From a practical standpoint, everyday multitasking seems well entrenched in contemporary life
even in critical information-rich venues like the classroom and the workplace. However, the possible
negative effects of multitasking with our WMDs give rise to the challenge of finding effective ways to
control our learning and our work performance in a highly distractible world. Simple choices, like a
student in a lecture deciding to delay a response to an incoming text message until the teacher has
finished making her point, might contribute to improved efficiency with everyday multitasking. Many
other simple choices are available to learners and to workers as they struggle to stay on task when
the primary task is an important one. These deliberate behaviors for handling one’s school and work
domains can be understood as a form of metacognition – digital metacognition – that might be teach-
able or might result from critical self-reflection of one’s prior learning and working experiences. Of
course, digital metacognition might rest on the individual’s insight into the fact that multiple devices
impede learning. To the degree that students believe that they can multitask effectively, they may have
to be educated and persuaded to adopt these strategies.
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practicalities of everyday multitasking, Developmental Review (2015), doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.12.005
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... Cognitive psychologists like Patricia Greenfield (2009) and neuroscientists like Stanislas Dehaene (2009) have hypothesized that hyperreading causes changes in the brain and shortens our attention spans. Psychological and pedagogical studies have signaled a negative impact of multitasking and "task switching" on reading performance (Bowman et al., 2015;Carrier et al., 2015;Levine et al., 2014;Waite et al., 2018). Hakemulder and Mangen (2021) found evidence for the "habituation hypothesis": that frequent reading of short texts from screen is negatively related to the tendency to search for deeper meanings in a literary story; as well as the "medium hypothesis": that reading a story from a screen invokes a more superficial experience than reading from paper. ...
... First, aforementioned studies of reading (Hayles, 2012;Metzinger, 2018;Smallwood, 2011) mostly conceptualize close reading and hyperreading, as well as attention and distraction, as a binary opposition. This becomes especially clear in the ways in which studies of task switching and multitasking are designed (Carrier et al., 2015;Waite et al., 2018). Such studies typically consist of one "main task," for example reading a complex theoretical text, and a set of "distractions" (e.g. ...
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When we think of a person engaged in the act of reading literary fiction, the mental image that readily comes to mind is one of focused concentration. In our current information age, such a form of reading seems especially necessary, and often lacking. This causes a change in how we read, often described in terms of close reading versus hyperreading. Literary reading is typically associated with the former; screen-based reading of information texts with the latter. Accounts of attention and distraction in reading research are often informed by a binary way of thinking. Literary reading, while often aligned with close reading, also involves selection, strategic allocation of attention informed by textual cues, condensation, and mind-wandering. It never occurs in a state of continuous attention: we combine different modes, triggered by both textual and readerly characteristics. A challenge for literary studies in the present media landscape is to determine more precisely when readers read with close attention and when they skim, or what they skip. This article presents a theoretical contribution to studies of literary reading in the form of a literature review and a framework for attentional modulation. Education might benefit from a more sophisticated concept of such attentional modulations. K E Y W O R D S attention, close reading, hyperreading, mind-wandering, modulation
... MV je spodbujena s prisotnostjo internetne tehnologije. Konsistentno je povezana s povečano nepozornostjo, slabšim učenjem v šoli in slabšim učnim uspehom (Carrier et al., 2015). Raziskave tudi kažejo, da negativno vpliva na izvršilne funkcije (Ophir et al., 2009). ...
... Raziskovalci za zmanjšanje vedenja, povezanega z MV, in njegovega negativnega učinka predlagajo postavljanje specifičnih ciljev, povečanje motivacije in pozitivne čustvene naravnanosti ter spodbujanje metakognicije (samozavedanje učenja, čuječnost ipd.) v uravnavanju MV (Carrier et al., 2015). ...
... Many studies have examined the effects of multitasking in the classroom (Alghamdi et al., 2020;Carrier et al., 2015;Cheong et al., 2016;Jamet et al., 2020;Katz & Lambert, 2016). As students shift between their DDs and lessons, concentration is lost, and with it, information (Elliott-Dorans, 2018;Jamet et al., 2020;Lyapina et al., 2019). ...
... In education, multitasking and its Studies in Learning and Teaching consequences have become increasingly problematic as students increasingly use their DDs during class (Carrier et al., 2015;Jamet et al., 2020). It is common for classroom students to switch between academic and non-academic tasks (Bockarova, 2016;May & Elder, 2018). ...
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Students use of digital devices (DDs), and the disruption of their attention in class is generally considered a cause for considerable concern regarding how it affects their performance in the classroom. Based on students' perceptions, this study aims to determine whether these DDs positively impact learning effectiveness. Using a qualitative exploratory design, the study sought to better understand the subject matter under investigation through the students' experiences. Before submission of the data to software for analysis, another person reviewed the transcribed text independently. ATLAS.ti version 22 software was used to analyze the data by an independent analyst. Findings showed that personal computers, tablets, mobile phones, and iPads are classrooms’ most commonly used DDs. Even though the advantages of using DDs in the classroom are significant, it was suggested that appropriate and responsible use of DDs is crucial for students to develop digital literacy, online safety, and responsible technology use habits, teachers and schools should establish guidelines and provide digital citizenship education. The study concluded that teachers need to implement strategies that minimise distractions while helping students.
... This objective relates to a large body of work that has documented the detrimental effect of disengagement on task performance. For instance, media multitasking is associated with poor memory encoding, reading comprehension, and information recall in educational settings 14,15 . Additionally, mind wandering is associated with slow and variable stimulus reaction times 16,17 , failure to inhibit automatic responses 18,19 , and impaired visual search 20 . ...
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Attention often disengages from primary tasks in favor of secondary tasks (i.e., multitasking) and task-unrelated thoughts (i.e., mind wandering). We assessed whether attentional disengagement, in the context of a cognitive task, can substantially differ between samples from commonly used online participant recruitment platforms, Prolific and Mechanical Turk (MTurk). Initially, eighty participants were recruited through Prolific to perform an attention task in which the risk of losing points for errors was varied (high risk = 80% chance of loss, low risk = 20% chance of loss). Attentional disengagement was measured via task performance along with self-reported mind wandering and multitasking. On Prolific, we observed surprisingly low levels of disengagement. We then conducted the same experiment on MTurk. Strikingly, MTurk participants exhibited more disengagement than Prolific participants. There was also an interaction between risk and platform, with the high-risk group exhibiting less disengagement, in terms of better task performance, than the low-risk group, but only on MTurk. Platform differences in individual traits related to disengagement and relations among study variables were also observed. Platform differences persisted, but were smaller, after increasing MTurk reputation criteria and remuneration in a second experiment. Therefore, recruitment platform and recruitment criteria could impact results related to attentional disengagement.
... Werken met aandacht In deze eerste bouwsteen (voormiddag, eerste dag) was er aandacht voor op wetenschappelijk onderzoek gebaseerde aandachtsvaardigheden. De uitwerking was gebaseerd op inzichten met betrekking tot: a. Multitasken en afleiding (zie bijv.Adler & Benbunan-Fich, 2012;Carrier et al., 2015;Gorman & Green, 2016;Levy et al., 2012;Pikos, 2017;Reinke & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2014;Tigchelaar & De Bos, 2019;Wajcman & Rose, 2011), waaronder effecten van telefoon scrollen tijdens gesprekken door de leidinggevenden(David & Roberts, 2017). b. ...
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Deze studie heeft als doel om de effectiviteit van een nieuwe training voor leidinggevenden m.b.t. aandachtige leidercommunicatie te testen. Aandachtige leidercommunicatie verwijst naar "een open, aandachtige houding tijdens een gesprek met een werknemer". De potentiële werkings-mechanismen van de training werden getest door de integratie van de Zelf-Determinatie Theorie en Kahn's psychologische voorwaarden voor bevlogenheid. De training werd longitudinaal getest met twee groepen leidinggevenden (N T1 = 18) uit publieke organisaties en hun medewerkers (N T1 = 129). Doordat de datavergaring tijdens een lockdown met verplicht thuiswerken plaatsvond, werd ook communicatie in de digitale om-geving onderzocht. Data van medewerkers lieten positieve resultaten zien betreffende (tevredenheid met aandachtige) communicatie van leiders, dienend leiderschap, vertrouwen in de leider, en mindfulness in communicatie, hoewel niet bij beide trainingsgroepen. Psycholo-gische behoeftebevrediging medieerde de relatie tussen aandachtige leidercommunicatie en burnout. Kahn's psychologische voorwaarden voor persoonlijke bevlogenheid (beschikbaarheid, betekenisvolheid en veiligheid) medieerden de relatie tussen aandachtige leidercommunicatie en zowel bevlogenheid als burnout. Uit open vragen over de lockdown bleek dat de ervaring van werknemers met betrekking tot thuiswerken varieerde van zeer positief tot extreem negatief. Zij rapporteerden over het algemeen geen effect op het leiderschap van hun leidinggevende, terwijl leiders aangaven dat thuiswerken hun communicatie met werknemers drastisch beïnvloedde.
... This finding aligns with studies that identify an age-related reduction in errors in sustained attention tasks, suggesting that sustained attention improves with age (Carriere et al., 2010). Across a lifespan, aging leads to a more strategic and slow response style that reduces the consequences of momentary task disengagement (Carrier et al., 2015). It has further been established that there is an inverse relation between age and daydreaming or mind-wandering, more specifically task-unrelated thoughts (TUTs) in vigilance tasks (Giambra, 1989). ...
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Reading literature is often related to cognitive patience (i.e., the ability to read with focused and sustained attention and delay gratification, while refraining from multitasking or skimming over parts of the text). In this explorative, survey-based study, we investigate the relations between reading literature (especially longer texts) and concentration and perseverance, as well as the role of different modes of reading like skimming and skipping. Our measures include an adapted version of the Author Recognition Test (ART) and a new behavioral measure of cognitive patience, developed specifically for this study: the Unscrambling Sentence Test (UST). Our findings offer some preliminary support for the hypotheses that (1) Attentive reading of longer literary texts correlates with cognitive patience; (2) A preference for texts that require sustained attention correlates with cognitive patience; and (3) A preference to skim or skip text passages negatively predicts cognitive patience. We recommend further research to derive more insight in what modes of attention are employed in reading literature, beyond close or deep attention, and how readers modulate between them.
... Often, studies on close reading and hyperreading conceptualize these terms, as well as attention and distraction, as a binary opposition. This becomes especially clear in the ways in which studies of task switching and multitasking are designed (e.g., Carrier et al., 2015;Waite et al., 2018). Such studies typically consist of one 'main task', for example reading a complex theoretical text, and a set of 'distractions' (e.g., incoming text messages). ...
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How do individual readers determine where to allocate and how to modulate attention while reading a short story? To what extent are their attentional modulations influenced by textual characteristics and personal characteristics? This study uses response data from group discussions of the short story “Where are you going, where have you been?” by Joyce Carol Oates (1966). Participants read the story in advance, color-coding words or lines to indicate different modes of attention employed and annotated the text with text-related and unrelated mind-wandering thoughts. The results show how attentional allocation is driven by textual elements as well as readers’ choices, resulting in a complex interaction of elicited and volitional attention to certain elements of the text– not just focused or distracted attention, but a “modulated” and “integrated” experience that is dynamic and personal. These modulations are also impacted by contextual factors and the reader’s personal history that impact which aspects of a text are salient and how attention is directed. The results might provide an empirical basis for, but also challenge and supplement current theories of attentional modulation in reading literature.
... Another avenue for future research is to investigate how smartphone usage patterns affect self-regulatory outcomes when used concurrently with other activities. Because of their mobility and portability, research has shown that smartphones are often used while performing other activities (Carrier et al., 2015;David et al., 2015). Prior research found that, on the one hand, multitaskers are better at dividing their attention over multiple tasks than those who perform tasks sequentially (Yap & Lim, 2013). ...
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The smartphone has become an integral part of adolescents’ daily life. Despite the countless affordances of smartphones, concerns have been raised about their enormous potential to cause failures in self-regulation, such as distraction and task delay. The current study investigated whether two smartphone usage patterns, fragmented and sticky smartphone use, are associated with distraction and task delay. For three weeks, we logged the smartphone usage of 160 adolescents (733,359 observations) and assessed their distraction and task delay six times a day with experience sampling (12,723 observations). Using Dynamic Structural Equation Modeling, we found that, overall, adolescents felt more distracted when their smartphone use was more fragmented or sticky. Exploratory analyses indicated that 77% of adolescents experienced increased distraction (i.e., β > .05) when their smartphone use was more fragmented, and 55% when it was sticky. Overall, adolescents did not report more task delay as their smartphone use was more fragmented or sticky. Nonetheless, 22% experienced increased task delay when their smartphone use was more fragmented, and 42% when it was sticky. Together, our findings underline the dynamic nature of smartphone use and its differential impact on self-regulation outcomes.
... Another avenue for future research is to investigate how smartphone usage patterns affect self-regulatory outcomes when used concurrently with other activities. Because of their mobility and portability, research has shown that smartphones are often used while performing other activities (Carrier et al., 2015;David et al., 2015). Prior research found that, on the one hand, multitaskers are better at dividing their attention over multiple tasks than those who perform tasks sequentially (Yap & Lim, 2013). ...
Full-text available
The smartphone has become an integral part of adolescents’ daily life. Despite the countless affordances of smartphones, concerns have been raised about their enormous potential to cause failures in self-regulation, such as distraction and task delay. The current study investigated whether two smartphone usage patterns, fragmented and sticky smartphone use, are associated with distraction and task delay. For three weeks, we logged the smartphone usage of 160 adolescents (733,359 observations) and assessed their distraction and task delay six times a day with experience sampling (12,723 observations). Using Dynamic Structural Equation Modeling, we found that, overall, adolescents felt more distracted when their smartphone use was more fragmented or sticky. Exploratory analyses indicated that 77% of adolescents experienced increased distraction (i.e., β > .05) when their smartphone use was more fragmented, and 55% when it was sticky. Overall, adolescents did not report more task delay as their smartphone use was more fragmented or sticky. Nonetheless, 22% experienced increased task delay when their smartphone use was more fragmented, and 42% when it was sticky. Together, our findings underline the dynamic nature of smartphone use and its differential impact on self-regulation outcomes.
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In our modern society, digital devices, social media platforms, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools have become integral components of our daily lives, profoundly intertwined with our daily activities. These technologies have undoubtedly brought convenience, connectivity, and speed, making our lives easier and more efficient. However, their influence on our brain function and cognitive abilities cannot be ignored. This review aims to explore both the positive and negative impacts of these technologies on crucial cognitive functions, including attention, memory, addiction, novelty-seeking and perception, decision-making, and critical thinking, as well as learning abilities. The review also discusses the differential influence of digital technology across different age groups and the unique challenges and benefits experienced by children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Strategies to maximize the benefits of the digital world while mitigating its potential drawbacks are also discussed. This review aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the intricate relationship between humans and technology. It underscores the need for further research in this rapidly evolving field and the importance of informed decision-making regarding our digital engagement to support optimal cognitive function and wellbeing in the digital era.
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Although research evidence indicates that multitasking results in poorer learning and poorer performance, many students engage with text messaging, Facebook, internet searching, emailing, and instant messaging, while sitting in university classrooms. Research also suggests that multitasking may be related to risk behaviors. This study’s purpose was to describe the multitasking behaviors occurring in university classrooms and to determine relationships between multitasking and risk behaviors. Surveys assessing multitasking, grades, and risk behaviors were completed by 774 students. Results show that the majority of students engage in classroom multitasking, which is significantly related to lower GPA and an increase in risk behaviors.